The Hypothetical Mailbag

I don’t get letters, but I do get questions. SO many questions about parrots, birds, and all that goes with them. In the interest of maybe getting information to those who don’t know me and can’t ask me these questions, I will answer the imaginary letters that are pouring in.

Q. Dear Loco: Hi! Long time blog reader, first time letter writer. My question is, I have a female cockatoo that I thought was male since I got him. Or her. Anyway, I named him Charlie. Do I need to change that name now? Will the bird have an identity crisis?

Also, the way I found out Charlie isn’t a male is that he started laying eggs. I take the eggs away and he keeps laying more. I don’t want babies, so I have to take the eggs out. But I read that letting him continue to lay eggs is bad. What do I do?

Signed, Scarlet in Atlanta, GA

A. Dear Scarlet, I am so glad you asked these questions. No, Charlie has no idea that her name is for a boy, not a girl. She will be fine. As for the egg laying, no, unless there is a real male cockatoo with her, you don’t have to worry about babies, you may leave the eggs with her. Usually she will realize that they won’t hatch after a month or so, and abandon the nest.

I assume you gave her a nest box so she would have somewhere to sleep. This is not needed. Her wild ancestors slept in trees on branches, and only find cavities in those trees for nesting during the breeding season. Giving her a box only encourages her to lay the eggs. Once you remove the box, if she still lays eggs, there are a few things you can do to discourage this. First of all, make sure she gets only 8 hours of light per day. I normally discourage covering bird cages, but in this case, it may be life saving. At the same time, limit her food to the amount she will eat in one day. Nothing extra. And no baths or showers.

Why, you ask? Well, breeding season occurs in the spring in either hemisphere. Spring means longer days, abundant food, and rains that leave puddles or swell the streams and lakes. Another way to discourage egg laying is to remove the security of the cage location and the cage itself. Move toys around, put food and water on another level, put the cage in another room. Good luck with Charlie!

Q. Dear Loco: How the heck do you stand all that noise? Don’t your neighbors complain?

Ed in NYC

A. If only I had a dollar for every time someone asks me that. The fact is, when someone new comes into the house, the birds set up an alarm call. That’s why we keep a glass of ear plugs by the front door. During the majority of the day, the birds call to each other in chirps, some sing, some talk, but it’s not that much noise. I can sleep in the living room where we have a dozen cockatiels and 5 conures of various types. I often bring my Amazon to sit on my chair while I doze, but that doesn’t always work. He thinks I am there to entertain him. Right now I can hear the doves outside cooing, the cockatiels inside and out whistling, the canaries chirping, and the Amazon muttering to himself. Oh, there went a budgie squabble. At night, when the lights go out, except for the night lights we leave on, there is silence. Inside and out. The lights go off about 10:00 pm, and after a final call all around, the birds close their eyes and sleep.

Why night lights? Cockatiels are fascinating little parrots. They dream. And they sometimes have nightmares or night frights. A night light will often help the scared bird realize it is safe and the dream has gone away. Whenever we take in new birds, we expect a night or two of such scares. Then it passes.

As to the neighbors, well, they almost all have yappy little dogs or big barking dogs. They leave these poor creatures outside at night, in all weather. It’s not bad in winter when our windows are closed, but in the summer it can be annoying. But I don’t call animal control to report barking dogs, and they don’t call animal control to report noisy birds. We haven’t reached this agreement in face to face discussion, but it stands just the same. And not to sound like I am profiling a community, I hope, but our neighbors are maybe 85% Latino. Their culture has a deep and abiding love for birds. Some of our neighbors keep birds of their own. There used to be a flock of pigeons a block over that would fly overhead. One or two of the pretty things would land and look our birds over. But they could not be tempted to join us when their own flock and nests were nearby.

I hope you may have learned something in this Let’s Pretend post! Have a great New Year!

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